Oh, I can still feel the heartache—even 20 years later. The ache to discover I’m pregnant. To actually be pregnant. To deliver a baby. To hold a baby in my arms. To name our child. To share all of these stories, even now. I fall silent when conversations erupt about pregnancy, delivery, lack of sleep, diapers, etc.—both as a recall and in present day scenarios—because I do not have anything to offer to the conversation.
But I am a mother. And I understand the graces of motherhood.
Like most infertile couples, I did not expect to face infertility. However, God planted a little seed about adoption in our early years of marriage and I suspected that we might adopt a child. That was grace.
Four years after our wedding, I chose to become Catholic and learned about Natural Family Planning (NFP). I immediately stopped taking the Pill and we connected with a nurse about NFP. I began charting and it was so beautiful to share this experience with my husband. That was grace.
Six months into our NFP journey, and trying to conceive, we came up short. The gift was that my charting provided documentation that allowed us to explore our infertility further. And from there, we learned that we could never conceive a biological child together because my husband did not produce sperm. My OB-GYN and team recommended artificial insemination and I immediately said no. Instead, we would explore adoption. That was grace.
I researched adoption. I called those who were adoptive parents, or in the process of adopting. I subscribed to adoption publications. Eventually, my husband and I attended classes for foster parenting through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). I do not recall the specifics, but I think it was 11 weeks of classes on foster parenting. And then we were in the system, available to accept a child between 0 and 10 years of age. We purchased a crib and bed and we waited (similar to the anticipation of a pregnancy, I would think). That was grace.
In December 2003, I received a call from DCFS about a 10-year old girl who needed a home. I called my husband and we agreed, and that is how quickly our daughter came into our life. My husband headed home to welcome her and after I finished working, I went shopping for clothes and other basics that she may need. After four years of wanting a child, we now had a 10-year-old in our care. That was grace.
Nine months later (oh the irony!), we received another call about a biological brother and sister in need of a permanent home. We agreed and went to visit them at their foster parent’s home. They then came to visit us the following weekend, and on the third weekend, they moved into our home. They were 8 years old and 5 years old. And just like that, we were a family of five. That was grace.
We took our name off the DCFS list and worked to nurture our family (I can write about our parenting experiences some other time, but it was both challenging and rewarding, to say the least). And I still yearned for a baby. I was disappointed every month when I started my period. Thankfully, with a busy household and three children, I could not dwell on my heartache for too long. That was grace.
I prayed fiercely with my journal. We shared mealtime prayers. We had the younger two children baptized very quickly after their adoption was finalized (our oldest daughter was already baptized). We enrolled them in Faith Formation classes. We attended weekly Mass. That was grace.
Fast forward 12 years. Our oldest daughter and her boyfriend announced to us one evening that they were expecting a baby. She was 22. I could not accept the news and cried all night. I was angry. I was disappointed. I was heartbroken all over again. Thankfully, my daughter wanted me to be a part of her pregnancy, so we had a very open and honest conversation. I explained how hard it was to hear this news because I wanted desperately to be pregnant. She shared her fears and excitement and wanted her mother to be a part of her journey. That was grace.
My heart healed immediately after that conversation and I had the honor of experiencing the ultrasound, feeling the baby kick, and helping her to breathe in the delivery room. I witnessed my grandson’s entry into this world and I was overjoyed with love. That was grace.
I am now 49 and a “Kiki” to two beautiful grandchildren. I share this story because when I look back at our 25 years of marriage, I see grace in abundance. I didn’t always recognize it at the time, but it was definitely there. From infertility to adoption to parenthood to grandparenthood, God has walked with us and given us the grace to continue.
In our small community, I have been inspired by two families who have experienced loss. One young family lost their 4-month old son and another family lost their son during pregnancy. They have both courageously shared their stories, their hurt, and their hope by keeping their sons’ names alive. I was honest about our infertility with those close to us, but I fell silent afterwards. And yet, what I have learned is that a huge part of my healing was sharing my own story with my pregnant daughter.
I prayed for a baby for many, many years. I just didn’t realize that my prayers would be answered through the gift of a grandbaby (or two). That is grace.
Kristen Templin has been married to her husband for 25 years. They live in southern Illinois and are the proud parents of three adult children and two grandchildren. Kristen is currently pursuing her master’s degree in theology from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana.